Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 24, 2010

Coal still key to U.S. energy

FACES of Coal refute misinformation

BLUEFIELD — Last week’s debate in Charleston between environmental lawyer Robert Kennedy Jr. and Don Blankenship, chief executive officer of Massey Coal over mountaintop surface mining drew a lot of attention, “but probably didn’t change any minds,” according to Bryan Brown, West Virginia coordinator for FACES of Coal.

FACES — the Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security — is an alliance of coal industry supporters who, according to Brown, are committed to getting a true and accurate story about the coal industry out to state and federal legislators as well as to the general public. According to Brown, coal industry opponents paint an unrealistic image of coal, that makes FACES for Coal’s work challenging.

“There are so many angles that the coal industry is now facing,” Brown said in a telephone interview on Friday. “It’s very difficult to discern the truth from debates like the one between Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Blankenship. Mr. Kennedy misspoke when he pointed out there that there are more jobs in the wind industry than in the coal industry. The information he cited is based on data that includes everyone from operators to people manufacturing windmills.

“Those figures have already been refuted,” Brown said. “If the environmental community wants to make that comparison, they should include all of the jobs in the coal mining support industries. Statements like that just fuel the fires for coal industry opponents.”

FACES for Coal was founded last summer, and has grown to 50,000 members, according to Brown. “We launched in Charleston last August, and now we have members in Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee.”

The Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce included a membership application in its most recent mailing to members. The Bluefield Chamber endorsed FACES efforts and urged its members to consider joining.

“We were one of their first members,” Marc Meachum, president and chief executive officer of the Bluefield chamber said. “They contacted us in August about getting a booth at the (2009) Bluefield Coal Show,” Meachum said. “Of course, by that time, every inch of the National Guard Armory was full and had been for several months. We offered them a table, and they sent two guys down here to talk with people.

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